Why do you work?

For most of us, to ask why we work amounts to a pretty stupid question because the answer is obvious — we work to get paid so we can buy food, clothes, pay for somewhere to live and pay the bills. Very few have so much money that they don’t need to work.

This rather mundane, pragmatic take on work is also biblical; Paul tells us that if anyone is not prepared to work they should not expect to be fed and we are to do honest work to provide for ourselves and our dependents (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12, Ephesians 4:28, and 1 Timothy 5:8). We are also called to put a full effort into the work we do, the admonition of Colossians 3:23-24 indicating that half-hearted work efforts and procrastination have been around for a very long time!

I find this pragmatic view of work in the Bible to be a relief in comparison to the currently popular ideals portrayed by career experts’ pushing ideas such as: A person’s worth is often measured by the career success or failings. There is often an assumption that you can find a job which is a perfect (or at least near-perfect) match for your skills, experience and personal motivations. Yet for most of us the whole career experience is more like the verb: move swiftly and in an uncontrolled way in a specified direction (i.e., down the dirt track of our lives in the rickety go-kart of our employability!). Very few people have any real ability to actually plan their career, the rest of us take the best job available at the time we are needing one.

In contrast, the Bible teaches that work is ordained by God (Genesis 2:15) and so is a necessary part of life but it has also been tainted with futility by the fall (Genesis 3:17-19, Romans 8:20), meaning that we will always have bad days on the job when nothing goes as we would wish. Certainly there is a lot of choice available in jobs now, but the ideal job for you (or me) simply does not exist because we are sinful and so will bring sinful attitudes or behaviours to our work, and the work itself is subject to the curse of futility so will frustrate us sooner or later.

Therefore, after a crap day at work when you might wonder if you have missed your life’s calling, relax. If you have put in a day’s work and were paid for it this strongly indicates that you are in fact living up to your calling in Christ so far as work goes.

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